Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Flood and the neglect of Kelantan since the 90s

Taken from a brother's recent trip to deliver assistance to Kelantan

Dato Zaid Ibrahim announced joining DAP yesterday. It is rumoured he will run in Gelang Patah, Johor to replace Lim Kit Siang.

His statement in October 2016 to call Kelantan PAS government lazy for making logging its main source of revenue now make political sense.

It is as if he did not know the real reason opposition states like Kelantan and then Kedah depended on logging for revenue.

Former Kelantan state exco member, Dato Husam Musa too criticised the state. He was on his way out of PAS to join PAN. His critics serve to divert blame away from him.

Husam was blamed for the devastating flood in Gua Musang at the end of 2014.

As early as the Galas by-election in 2010, he was accused of profiteering from timber concessions and the environmental rape of Lojing highlands.

But, was it entirely Husam's or PAS state government fault?

In the light of PAS snuggling up to Tun Dr Mahathir's PPBM to form a coalition, perhaps this two-series feature in NST sometime ago be given due consideration in their decision.

Lim Guan Eng claimed the meeting between PAS and PPBM failed to achieve any agreement. Dato Seri Haji Hadi Awang said it was merely to meet. Nothing firm came out.

Whatever is the actual outcome, PAS politicians are cunning lots. They do not lie but there are escape clauses in all their statements.

Mentioned many times in this blog before, Nik Abduh used to say privately that UMNO is a PN17 company. A JV with UMNO will be like good money going after bad money.

That is politics.

But this is about the people.

During the by-election at Pengkalan Kubor in 2014, the peoples' grouses on flood and what need be done was heard.

They claim Thailand did a better job at flood mitigation than Malaysia. It is a shame to hear that coming from our own Malaysians.

The said NST article below for a perspective of the problem:

The Kelantan floodgate

By Isham Jalil - 16 January 2017 @ 10:33

This is a story about the Kelantan flood; about how a natural disaster could have been mitigated by humans but wasn’t, and even worsened by them.

In 1990, Pas took over the Kelantan government from Barisan Nasional. Three years earlier, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then prime minister, had marginally defeated Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in a bitter fight for the Umno president’s post. Tengku Razaleigh, still fresh with wounds from the fight, had his revenge in the 1990 general election when he and his newly formed party, Semangat 46, helped Pas defeat BN to win the state. Dr Mahathir had lost Kelantan to Pas and Tengku Razaleigh, and he was upset and angry.

Subsequently, throughout the 1990s under Dr Mahathir’s administration, the federal budget allocation to Kelantan was significantly cut. Between 1991 and 1995, under the 6th Malaysia Plan, less than one per cent of the RM116 billion federal development expenditure was allotted to Kelantan, the lowest allocation compared with all other states. This practice continued until 2003.

Consequently, there were very few development activities in Kelantan during the 1990s. Highways, roads and dams that were supposed to be built were cancelled. Economic growth was inhibited, and job availability was limited. As a result, there was a mass exodus of locals out of Kelantan during this period. Hundreds of thousands of Kelantan folk had to emigrate to find jobs. Currently, it is estimated that one in three of the 1.5 million Kelantan people live and work outside the state. If Dr Mahathir had intended to punish Pas and Tengku Razaleigh, the Kelantan people were collateral damage.

The lack of economic activities and growth following the restricted financial support from the Federal Government left the Kelantan government and its leaders scrambling to keep the state afloat in the 1990s. And they resorted to the easiest and quickest way to generate income and to ease the financial burden of the state: logging.

Since the 90s, logging in Kelantan has been rampant. On paper, only a small forest area was approved for logging in the state. However, the Forestry Department has estimated that in Kelantan more than 45,000ha of forest have been cleared and logged, almost equivalent to an area double the size of Kuala Lumpur. And more forest areas have been cleared in Kelantan recently, compared with other states in the peninsula. This was mostly done legally. How did they do it?

Under the National Forestry Act 1984, it is mandatory for trees located in logging areas to be selected, tagged and catalogued. However, this requirement presents a hindrance to the loggers in terms of time, cost, effort and the number of trees that could be cut. It is much easier and quicker for loggers to bulldoze and clear the whole area and remove the logs. To do this and to circumvent the law under the act, the state government exercised its power, provided for in Article 74 (2) of the Federal Constitution, giving it priority jurisdiction over land matters, including the forest.

In the late 1990s, instead of issuing logging licences under the National Forestry Act, which the Kelantan government does for only about 2,000ha annually, it reclassified a large part of the forest reserve as “forest farm”. Under this reclassification, the forest can be totally cleared without the tree-monitoring requirements, such as tagging and cataloging.

This “forest farm” is supposed to be for agricultural development, such as oil palm and rubber plantations, and it was originally meant for only “poor forest”, being the low-density forest with small- to medium-sized trees. But, this “poor forest” could still churn out a highly lucrative 40 tonne of timber per hectare.

To date, 199,000ha of forest in Kelantan has been classified and approved as forest farm, an area about three times the size of Singapore. This is roughly one-third of the total Kelantan forest reserve area. It is the largest forest farm in Peninsular Malaysia, bigger than all the forest farms in other states in the peninsula combined.

There is logging and land clearing activity in Pahang, the largest state in the peninsula, too. However, land-clearing there pales in comparison to what has happened in Kelantan in the past years. Pahang, with the largest forest reserve in the peninsula, only classifies five per cent of its total forest reserve, or 80,447ha, as forest farm, compared with Kelantan at about two and a half times the size.

The forest farm practice has exacerbated land clearing activities in Kelantan at an alarming rate. One estimate from an ex-executive councillor of the Kelantan government, from a recently published interview, said 200,000ha had been cleared under forest farming in Kelantan in the last 15 years.

Cleared forest farm areas are supposed to be replanted. However, this has not been done in most cases in Kelantan. According to the Forestry Department, to date, only about 10,000ha of cleared forest farms have been replanted, a mere five per cent of the estimated 200,000ha cleared in the state. Even with an annual quota for land-clearing imposed, the replanting rate remains disproportionate to the annual quota of cleared land, leaving tens of thousands of hectares of forest now open soil or bare terrain in Kelantan.

The state government keeps blaming the Forestry Department for lack of enforcement on land clearing. But, to what extent is the department able to enforce when land clearing is done legally under state law and sanctioned by the state government?

In Part II tomorrow: Evidence and proof linking land clearing and the worsening floods

Isham Jalil has experienced the floods in Kelantan since the 70s. He is president of Sukarelawan Malaysia, which has helped flood victims in Kelantan over the years, including rebuilding homes destroyed by floods. The writer holds a master in public policy degree in politics, economics and law from Harvard University

The second part below:

Kelantan floodgate: Part II

By Isham Jalil - 17 January 2017 @ 9:05 AM

THE Kelantan government is still in denial that logging and land-clearing activities have caused or worsened floods, even after the 2014 flood, which was the worst the country has ever seen in almost half a century.

The state authority reiterated that logging did not cause the floods but rain did, and that the floodwaters did not come from the logging areas, but from the national park. Unfortunately, pivoting the rhetoric isn’t going to solve the problem, nor does it relieve the suffering of Kelantan people affected by the floods each year.

Despite the denial, several experts from various fields, including meteorology, forestry and sustainable development, have highlighted overwhelming evidence linking land clearing and worsening floods in Kelantan — such as alluvial deposits as far as 1,000m from riverbanks seen post-flood, formation of acres of sandbars in Sungai Kelantan due to accelerated erosion upstream, and countless satellite images showing soil erosion from cleared forest.

The United Nations has stated that deforestation may be one of the principal causes of severe flooding. This is evidenced by the floods in Bangladesh in 1998, Haiti in 2004 and Mexico in 2007.

Experts say soil eroded from cleared land flows into adjacent rivers, causing siltation and shallowing of the riverbeds, hence, worsening the flood.

It is estimated that the amount of soil loss from cleared forests in Kelantan over the last two decades is more than 15 million cubic metres.

This is enough to raise the riverbeds of the entire 517km stretch of the three main rivers in Kelantan — Sungai Kelantan, Sungai Lebir and Sungai Galas — by more than five feet (1.5m) of silt and sediments.

Experts allude to large-scale land clearing precipitating more rainfall, hence, floods. According to a study by the Institute of Infrastructure Engineering and Sustainable Management (IIESM) of Malaysia, massive land clearing affects the hydrologic cycle of rains, hence, causing an unusual increase in rainfall.

This explains why in the 2014 flood, 40 per cent of the annual rain fall came down within 10 days in Kelantan, which corresponds to tens of thousands of hectares of forest cleared in recent years prior to the flood.

It is impossible for floodwater to come just from the national park as suggested by the state authority; instead, the floodwater came from the Kelantan highlands, including much from the forest farm and its adjacent areas, as recorded by rain stations across the state.

In 1989, Thailand issued a logging ban following the worst flood the country had seen in nearly a century.

In 1998, China banned logging after floods near the Yangtze River killed more than 3,000 people.

In 2011, the Philippines banned logging after 70 people died following a flood caused by unusually heavy rainfall.

Perhaps, the suggestion by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim last Tuesday for the government to ban logging for 10 years to mitigate the flood doesn’t sound so bad after all.

After the 2014 flood, forest farming could have been stopped. But, it wasn’t. Land-clearing activities kept going on. If this persists and land clearing is left unchecked, flooding in Kelantan could worsen in the coming years. A big flood may not happen every year, but it will probably happen sooner than we think and more often than we want. The massive land clearing from forest farming could open a floodgate of water no dams or bunds in Kelantan can contain.

In the two recent floods in Kelantan, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and homes destroyed.

Many people, especially women, children and old folk, suffered in the cold and wet condition. Considering this, perhaps, the revenue from logging is not worth it.

Alas, the past is the past. We learnt from history but we must move on.

So, what do we do about it now? According to experts, at least three things need to be done:

FIRST, the land-clearing activities need to stop or at least be controlled; logging, if not banned, must be done in a sustainable manner;

SECOND, water containment infrastructure needs to be built upstream to hold the water during heavy rainfall and the monsoon season; and,

THIRD, the de-silting and deepening of rivers downstream needs to continue aggressively. It is critical that efforts are targeted at both the upstream and downstream levels of the Kelantan river basins.

Downstream efforts, such as desilting at the delta of Sungai Kelantan, will be ineffective without requisite work done upstream because the silt and soil will otherwise just keep coming down.

Flood mitigation requires the cooperation of both the Federal Government and state government. The state government doesn’t have as much resources as the Federal Government, and the Federal Government doesn’t have as much jurisdiction on land matters as the state government. But both can complement each other with a common goal to help Kelantan folk.

And unlike the administration in the 90s, the federal administration under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been supportive of Kelantan, allocating more than RM30 billion for the state for operational and development expenditure as well as financial assistance in the last five years.

Thus, if the Kelantan government and Federal Government want to cooperate, this would be a good time and platform to do so, putting political expediency aside for the benefit and wellbeing of Kelantan folk.

Human beings may have made floods worse, but human beings can also make it better. As the old saying goes, “Buang yang keruh, ambil yang jernih. Baru teguh peribadi” (Let bygones be bygones; take the good and throw away the bad).

Isham Jalil has has experienced the floods in Kelantan since the 70s. He is the president of Sukarelawan Malaysia, which has helped flood victims in Kelantan over the years, including by rebuilding homes destroyed in the floods. The writer holds a Master of Public Policy degree in politics, economics and law from Harvard University.
Politics aside.

The view is something for the people and community leaders of Kelantan to ponder over.

For Malaysians, it is pointless to claim developed nation status in 2020 with areas in the country like Sarawak, Sabah and in this case, Kelantan still living in a state of neglect worse than any third world country. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The sins of Mahathir on the Malays knows no bound.

With the remain of his life to meet the maker can sensibly be counted in days, he is still deceiving the Malays for his greed for power and wealth at expense of all Bumiputera.

Are the Chap Bunga guided by conscience and morality?

No worry, we know their reply. Everything and the past does not matter.

1MDB and Najib pencuri. They would even lie to preach their doomsday economic theory and sabotage the economy as long as Mahathir and family gets their way.

My Say